Why is the menopause an important workplace issue?
The menopause is an important workplace issue because it affects so many employees. There are now around 4.4 million women aged 50-64 in work, and the vast majority of these will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. There is a strong business case for supporting women experiencing the menopause at work, who are often at the peak of their skills, experience and careers – enhanced talent attraction and retention, wellbeing and organisational performance.
Why hasn’t it been addressed before?
There is still a real taboo when it comes to the menopause at work. While some menopausal women receive help and understanding from colleagues and managers, many are too embarrassed to discuss the issue or think their manager would be embarrassed. Many women ‘typically suffer in silence’, while often a few small practical adjustments at work could make a world of difference to those experiencing the often uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause.
Menopause is seen by many as a taboo topic in the workplace. What can employers do to help overcome this?
The only way to overcome the taboo and help to normalise the conversation is to start talking and educating people about the menopause. The organisations featured in our guidance help to do this by holding employee focus groups to talk to people about their experiences and set up support groups and buddies for those experiencing the menopause at work. They also ensure that they are engaging with men on the issue and have senior level support. Many have also developed an organisational framework which encompasses training for line managers on sensitive conversations and reasonable adjustments and which signposts sources of further support and information.
Tell us more about the guide…
We have published two practical guides – one is aimed at People Professionals and the other is specifically for People Managers. They include practical guidance aimed at helping to normalise the conversation around the menopause at work, developing frameworks of support and education and creating inclusive cultures. We hope that organisations will use our practical guidance to effect change and tailor to their individual contexts and cultures.
If you could tell employers just one thing about the menopause at work, what would it be?
Don’t assume that all women will be experiencing the menopause in the same way. Some might experience very few symptoms, while others might experience severe physical and psychological symptoms that can last for 10 years or more. One of the most important things you can do as an employer is to train line managers to have sensitive conversations that consider individual needs and offer adjustments that help with the specific symptoms that are being experienced.
Claire McCartney is Diversity & Inclusion Policy Adviser at the CIPD, specialising in the areas of diversity & inclusion, flexible working, resourcing and talent management. She has also conducted research into meaning and trust at work, age diversity, workplace carers and enterprise and has worked on a number of international projects. She is the author of several reports and articles and regularly presents at seminars and conferences.